Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Most Shinto festivals are organized and run by the staff called “touya 頭屋,” and my dad was one of them this year. In my hometown, one family (actually, the man of the house of the family) from each neighborhood has to do this task. There are 3 or 4 neighborhoods there, so the festival is usually taken care of by 4 touya people. In order to be fair, the families take turns to be touya, and a turn comes apx. every 30 years or so.
(Click on the photos with * mark to enlarge.)

They need to find people who can perform the important roles in the ritual on festival days.

*Maihime with Ichi-san (shaman) in the center

The important participants include care-takers or make-up staff called kehainin 気配人, old ladies who serve sake called touji-baa 杜氏婆 or tosa-baa 土佐婆, little boys who play a shaman-like role called touninko 頭人子 and young girls who dance in front of the altar called maihime 舞姫. And there have to be others who join the parade to carry mikoshi (portable miniature shrines) or other ornaments/offerings to the gods.

My dad had a hard time finding a sake-serving woman. He couldn’t ask mom to do it because she had to cook the feast both days of the festival so couldn't leave the kitchen adjacent to the shrine. And my great-aunt said “No” when she was asked because of her health problem. Mom suggested that I could be a sake-serving woman, but one of our relatives told her, “No kidding! Only postmenopausal women are allowed to do that job!” Wow. :P

According to the printout given to the main staff of the festival (I read dad’s copy), the first part of the ritual was performed in late September. Looks like they got together to offer some foods to the altar and clean and decorate the shrine. The printouts were obviously prepared with a word-processor and had detailed instructions about how much of food/decorations in what size were needed as well as the phone numbers of the people to contact.

The altar of the shrine
October 13th was the day of purification ritual, according to the schedule on the printout. I didn’t have a chance to see that, but according to the printout, touya and sake-serving women went to the Cape Muroto and went through the purification ritual. (I don’t know if they actually bathed in the ocean to get purified.) It seems to be a tradition to use the ocean water for purification in my hometown. The instruction said “Bring ocean water in 2 sake-bottles and offer to the altar. Use one bottle of water to wipe the faces of Touninko boys.” Also on this day, rice was offered to god in a special straw bag and shiratama dumpling soup was given to all the staff. Mom had to cook the soup with 3 other women (touya’s wives) and she said it was quite a work.

To be cont'd...

Photos in this post by obachan -- All rights reserved
posted by obachan, 10/18/2006 11:36:00 AM


Qué tal...

De visita por algunos blogs, encontré el tuyo y me ha gustado mucho la calidad de cada artículo y las imágenes que los acompañan.

Mi nombre es José Luis Ávila Herrera y soy el editor del Banco de Imágenes Gratuitas de México.

Si lo deseas, puedes visitar mi blog y si acaso te gusta, podemos intercambiar enlaces entre nuestros sitios para que más personas puedan conocernos a través de la blogósfera.

«Espero tu respuesta en mi blog»
commented by Blogger José Luis Avila Herrera, 10/18/2006 12:29 PM  
hi obachan, really loving your shinto fest series. everything's more colorful and fun than christian ceremonies, hehe. RE: sake-servers - is the postmenopausal requirement a joke, or is there a special reason? female hormones are too powerful? mmph!
commented by Blogger moorl, 10/20/2006 10:35 AM  
banco de imagenes gratuitas
Thanks for your comment. Sorry, I cannot read Spanish, but feel free to link to my blog, if that's what you are talking about.

Hahaha... It's not a joke. But I don't know the exact reason behind it. I'm no expert, but I've heard somewhere that in the ancient belief of Shinto, women's menstration was considered as a "pollution" (well, according to this page) so, this might have something to do with it. They don't seem to care younger women cooking festival feast, but probably sake used in the formal ritual is different -- more sacred. But this is nothing more than my assumption.
commented by Blogger obachan, 10/23/2006 4:37 PM  

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